All About Alumni / Winter 2018
Enter the Dragon

Why did this U of T alum build a fire-breathing dragon bus? To go to Burning Man, of course!

Video: Laura Pedersen (with night footage by Tim Sandik/Ded Pixel of Ded Agency)

Earlier this year, Kevin Bracken (BA 2009 UC), his wife, artist Marie Poliak, and friend Matt Von Wilde led efforts to build a fire-breathing dragon bus – a 19-foot-tall, 30-foot-long vehicle featuring a concert stage with amplified sound, as well as an animatronic jaw that opens and closes before shooting bursts of flames.

Why? To drive to Burning Man – an annual gathering in Nevada, which has a tradition of participants creating incredible art on wheels. The bus has travelled to other events throughout North America, and Bracken has big plans for “Heavy Meta” (named after the 1981 animated film Heavy Metal) in the new year – from making its head pivot and its wings flap, to adding LED lighting that will increase the dragon’s visibility at night.

Volunteers constructed Heavy Meta in a shop in downtown Toronto – welding, cutting sheet metal and doing carpentry to help bring the concept to life. Bracken has challenged Torontonians to make nine more art cars that will live in the city, and several people have already answered the call. “We want it to be a Toronto art tradition, to create massive participatory art that anyone can enjoy,” says Bracken, whose brainchild Newmindspace started International Pillow Fight Day in 2005, which is now celebrated in 150 cities worldwide.

Photo of dragon breathing fire surrounded by a crowd of onlookers.

Why build a fire-breathing dragon bus? To go to Burning Man, of course! Photo: Ded Pixel of Ded Agency.

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